January 19, 2017

Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts

The media is getting played, too

"The American press has focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Russian hacking and cyberattacks, and the reporting itself has only muddied the truth for most in the audience:

-- says Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, in an interview with CJR. Watts is now a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, where he analyzes social bots, trolls, and websites that intelligence agencies say are the foot soldiers of Russia's information war.

"The hacking generates information, which promotes Russia's influence campaign, but the end objective is to convince people to choose a candidate based on Russia's preference. This is getting confused, because people hear 'hack' and they think their votes are being changed."

It's a classic page from the Cold War playbook, says Watts, adding that Putin has brought new meaning to the Soviet-Era doctrine of using "the force of politics" rather than "the politics of force."

"The main success of this campaign is not that it took place, but the panic we are in now," Meister adds. "We've lost our self-confidence in our system, in our democracy, in our elections and in our media. That's the biggest success of the Russian campaign."

Continue reading "Hacking the news is social engineering: Clint Watts" »

May 20, 2016

Identity recognition via social media pictures and sound

Biometric information like face and voice recognition has become a huge and potentially costly area as tech companies plow tons of money and powerful artificial intelligence technologies into photo and video applications that can identify people with an accuracy that would have seemed like science fiction only a few years ago.

Laws curbing these programs can be a huge burden for tech companies, because following the laws could mean slowing the arrival of new features or creating a patchwork of features that could be turned off and on in various states.

While the state violations are often small -- the Illinois act gives citizens the right to sue for up to $5,000 per violation -- potential liability can run to billions or even trillions of dollars once multiplied across hundreds of millions of individual users. That has made privacy law a lucrative new area for class-action lawyers who can extract multimillion-dollar settlements just by bringing a case.

Nevertheless, questions of how much tech companies should be allowed to do without notifying their users will multiply, especially as people adopt more live video and voice technologies that have already made it possible for tech companies to identify people who might not even use their services.

"It's basically a company creating the ability to capture someone's identity when they might not want to reveal their identity," Mr. Marc Rotenberg said.

The Biometric Information Privacy Act was passed in Illinois in 2008 and has quickly become the bane of social media companies. Under the current law, companies have to get a user's consent before turning on features that scan and store faces for identification.